Main Births etc
Elk River
—  City  —
Elk River, Minnesota
Main Street, July 2009
Nickname(s): Energy City, Powered By Nature
Location of the city of Elk River
within Sherburne County, Minnesota
Coordinates: 45°19′2″N 93°34′52″W / 45.31722, -93.58111Coordinates: 45°19′2″N 93°34′52″W / 45.31722, -93.58111
Country United States
State Minnesota
County Sherburne
 • Mayor John J. Dietz
 • Administrator Calvin Portner
 • Total 43.82 sq mi (113.49 km2)
 • Land 42.29 sq mi (109.53 km2)
 • Water 1.53 sq mi (3.96 km2)
Elevation 896 ft (273 m)
Population (2010)[2]
 • Total 22,974
 • Estimate (2013)[3] 23,447
 • Density 543.2/sq mi (209.7/km2)
Time zone Central (CST) (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP code 55330
Area code(s) 763
FIPS code 27-18674[4]
GNIS feature ID 0643266[5]
Website City of Elk River

Elk River is a city in Sherburne County, Minnesota, United States, about 34 miles northwest of Minneapolis. It is situated at the confluence of the Mississippi and Elk Rivers. The population was 22,974 at the 2010 census.[6] It is the county seat. The city's population exceeded 20,000 as of 2005.[7] U.S. Highways 10 and 169 and State Highway 101 are three of the main routes in Elk River, and a station on the Northstar Commuter Rail line to downtown Minneapolis is located in the city. Elk River is located 33 miles northwest of Minneapolis; and 37 miles southeast of St. Cloud.


The hardwood-forested hills in which Elk River is situated were pushed up by the last glacier that advanced across Minnesota. These hills are made up of coarse materials which is the reason gravel mining is so prevalent in Elk River, and also the reason much of the area is not considered good farmland.

To the south of Elk River lies the prairie. This natural boundary between the prairie and woods was also a boundary between Indian nations. Two battles between the Dakota and Ojibwe took place where the Elk River meets the Mississippi in 1772 and 1773.

Powered by rivers[]

The Elk River Water Tower was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012.

Zebulon Pike passed through the area on his 1805 exploration of the upper Mississippi River and named the Elk River after the herds of elk he saw in the area. David Fairbault built a trading post near the conjunction of the Elk and Mississippi Rivers in 1846, which he later sold to Pierre Bottineau. The two rivers and the Red River Trail, which passed nearby, made this area a good location for commerce.

In 1851, Ard Godfrey, a native of Orono, Maine, saw the potential of the water power of the Elk River and built a dam and a sawmill. His dam created the first lobe of Lake Orono (called the Mill Pond), which extended from the present day dam to Orono Cemetery Point. In 1855, the area by the dam was platted and the town of Orono (known as Upper Town) was created.

In the latter half of the 19th century, agriculture replaced lumber as the base of Elk River's economy. Grist mills and a starch factory, which took advantage of the potato fields to the west, were built.

The Orono-Elk River area continued to grow until by 1860 it had reached a population of 723 people. These early settlers typically came from New England. Elk River's population continued to grow following a slow period caused by the civil war. The majority of people moving to Elk River by that time were from Northern Europe.

By 1870, Elk River swelled to a population of 2,050 and became the county seat in 1872. Around this same time, the railroads replaced the rivers as the main focus of transportation and the Lower Town (the present day historic downtown area) replaced Upper Town as the focus of commerce.

The Orono Dam was destroyed by an ice storm in 1912, but hydropower gave a new incentive to dam the Elk River in 1915. This new dam created the four lobes of Lake Orono as we know it today. In 1916, the Village of Elk River received electricity for the first time. The entire township of Elk River would not get electricity until after World War II.

Powered by transportation[]

Charles Babcock, a native son of Elk River and the first Commissioner of Highways for the state, had a visionary plan to "get Minnesota out of the mud." His plan to create a network of paved roads became a model for the rest of the nation and the Jefferson Highway (now Highway 10) became one of the first paved roads in the state. Highway 10 used to cross the Elk River over the dam bridge, but was rerouted to its present location shortly after World War II.

Jackson Avenue used to be Highway 169. For years, the intersection of this road and Highway 10 was the only one with a stoplight in Elk River and on major travel weekends, traffic would back up half way to Anoka. Work on Highway 169 to bypass Elk River began in 1961. Work on a new route for Highway 101 between Rogers and Elk River began in 1968.

In 1974, the Village of Elk River changed to the City of Elk River. In 1978, the City of Elk River and the township of Elk River were consolidated to create one unit known as the City of Elk River as it exists today. The result was one of the largest land-based cities in the state of Minnesota, at 44 square miles.

Besides transportation, energy has always played a significant role in shaping Elk River. The first rural nuclear power plant in the United States went online in 1960 as Great River Energy's (GRE) site in Elk River. It was meant only as a demonstration site and was dismantled after several successful years of operation.

Powered by Energy City[]

In the late 1980s, GRE's power plant was converted to burn refuse-derived fuel. This innovative source of energy was one factor that helped Elk River receive the designation of "Energy City" by the Minnesota Environmental Initiative in October 1997. As Energy City, Minnesota's energy industries demonstrate cutting edge renewable and energy efficient technologies in Elk River.

By the 1990s, Elk River and Sherburne County were in one of the fastest growing corridors in the state and in the country. This population growth and the area's high commuter rate factored into the ultimate approval and implementation of the Northstar Commuter Rail service from Minneapolis to Big Lake, which began service on November 16, 2009.


The City of Elk River offers many amenities to its residents, offering a small town feel but close enough to the Twin Cities and St. Cloud. The City boasts two golf courses, Pinewood Golf Course, a municipal nine-hole course, and Elk River Country Club, an 18-hole course. The Elk River Arena is located near the Elk River High School and offers skating to youth and adults, as well as a Spring and Fall Arts and Craft Fair, an arena walking track, and much more. The City of Elk River offers many opportunities to the 55+ crowd with an Activity Center and Senior Center. The Elk River Public Library is part of the Great River Regional Library system and the building is a LEED Gold Certified building.

The City of Elk River has over 44 parks totaling over 800 acres in various stages of development. While many of these parks are neighborhood parks, there are also some gems of community parks. Here's a highlight:

Hillside City Park[]

Hillside City Park is located south of County Road 12 and is home to six miles of challenging mountain bike trails. Volunteers built and continue to maintain these trails, which travel through 80 acres of oak forest.

Lions Park[]

Lions Park is centrally located south of School Street. The park is 34 acres and includes six picnic shelters, a trail system, band shell, hockey rink, frisbee golf, and playground equipment. The buildings at Lions Park can be reserved for indoor activities such as weddings, receptions, dinners, and meetings. A lot of the city's recreation programming is held here, such as Safety Camp and Kidstock.

Woodland Trails Park[]

Woodland Trails Park is located east of County Road 1 and north of the Elk River Country Club. The park is 164 acres of woods, prairies, and wetlands. The park includes parking, paved biking trails, and unpaved walking and hiking trails. The park connects with the Great Northern Trail, which offers 4.75 miles of paved trails. In the wintertime, cross-country ski trails are maintained by the local ski club. This park is ideal for family picnics, natural interpretation, walking, and cross-country skiing.

Orono Park[]

Orono Park is located on the west shore of Lake Orono, south of Highway 10. This park is 45 acres in area and includes a fishing pier, swimming beach, sand volleyball court, and playground equipment. There are mature oak trees and pines, making this location perfect for family picnics and celebrations; there are four picnic shelters available for reservation. You can launch your boat to enjoy fishing, water skiing and jet skiing on the lake.

River's Edge Commons Park[]

Another gem of Elk River is the riverfront park in downtown Elk River, providing spectacular views of the Mississippi River, an amphitheater, splash fountain, and picnic gazebo. River's Edge Commons Park is the year-round hotspot for weddings, with the mighty Mississippi as a beautiful backdrop. In June, July, and August, free weekly evening concerts are a great way to relax and hear some wonderful local musical talent.

Powered by Art[]

Elk River has always been a town energized by its local artists, showcasing extremely talented residents. The Elk River Area Arts Alliance, founded in 1989, is a nonprofit organization that works with area businesses, government agencies, local schools, other arts organizations, and individual artists to provide quality arts experiences for area residents. The Arts Alliance is known for ArtSoup, Strings for Youth, and Arts in Harmony. They provide access to professional concerts, theater, dance, and visual arts experiences through Arts Explorations motor coach trips. The Arts Alliance also provides various workshops and have a family and arts center with attractive community gathering space, classrooms, studios, gallery. They are also able to offer professional concerts in a state-of-the-art theater at Elk River Area High School.

Handke Pit[]

Handke Pit

Downtown Murals[]

In 1991, K.S. "Bud" Houlton commissioned the painting of the first downtown mural. The mural, depicting the former buildings on the south side of Main Street circa 1960, captured the spirit when downtown was the center of the business community. Mr. Houlton had a great interest in local history, and created the mural as a gift to the community. Mr. Houlton's son, John, clearly remembers the businesses depicted in the painting. He stated the bakery and barber shop are still in operation today, but the business names have changed. The artist is Michael Russell.

In 2001, the Three Rivers Community Theater applied for a grant to assist in providing monies towards the painting of a mural of an artistic and historical significance on the building adjacent to the River's Edge Park, located at the intersection of Main Street and Jackson Avenue. This effort to have a mural painted was inspired by numerous community members, business owners, and public entities interested in downtown beautification and continuing to recognize the arts community of Elk River. This project enhanced the social, cultural, and leisure of downtown Elk River. The desire was to draw attention to the Mississippi River for its beauty and solace as well as its historical significance to Elk River. Local artist Frank Gosiak created and painted the mural.

File:Rivers Edge Commons Downtown Mural painted by Frank Gosiak.jpg

Rivers Edge Commons Downtown Mural painted by Frank Gosiak

UFO Activity[]

Elk River has a notable history of unidentified-flying-object activity.[8][9][10]


The city of Elk River is a busy city when it comes to traffic, particularly on weekends in the summer and fall as vacationers and hunters head north to their cabins.

U.S. Highways 10 and 169 have their northwest juncture in Elk River, with the two highways concurrent for 12 miles until Anoka to the southeast. U.S. 10 continues northwesterly toward St. Cloud, and U.S. 169 continues due north toward Mille Lacs Lake from Elk River.

Minnesota Highway 101 has its northern terminus at the U.S. 10 / U.S. 169 split in Elk River, and is a major route connecting these highways with Interstate 94, seven miles to the south.

Many residents of Elk River commute to the Twin Cities daily for work; it is roughly a 40-mile drive to Minneapolis. Elk River Station is served by the Northstar Commuter Rail line connecting the northwest suburbs and downtown Minneapolis; the line opened in November 2009.[11]

For travel within the city, there is an on-demand bus service available called RiverRider.

Major highways[]

The following routes are located within the city of Elk River.

  • US 10.svg U.S. Highway 10
  • US 169 (MN).svg U.S. Highway 169
  • MN-101.svg Minnesota State Highway 101


Elk River is served by three 9th to 12th high schools, Elk River High School, Ivan Sand Community School and Spectrum High School, and two middle schools, Salk Middle School and VandenBerge Middle School, both of which serve 6th to 8th grades.[12] Lincoln Elementary, Parker Elementary, Meadowvale Elementary and Twin Lakes Elementary serve kindergarten to 5th grade.[12] Elk River is also served by a private school. Paid for mostly by parishioners, St. Andrew's Catholic School currently teaches Kindergarten through 5th Grade. Elk River is home to Spectrum High School, a charter school. The main building serves 7-12th grade, with a separate 6th grade campus.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 43.82 square miles (113.49 km2); 42.29 square miles (109.53 km2) is land and 1.53 square miles (3.96 km2) is water.[1] The city's latitude and longitude are 45.313601° N and 93.5814° W.

It is bordered on the south by the Mississippi River.


Historical populations
Census Pop.
1880 635
1890 679 6.9%
1900 831 22.4%
1910 859 3.4%
1920 983 14.4%
1930 1,026 4.4%
1940 1,245 21.3%
1950 1,399 12.4%
1960 1,763 26.0%
1970 2,252 27.7%
1980 6,785 201.3%
1990 11,143 64.2%
2000 16,447 47.6%
2010 22,974 39.7%
Est. 2013 23,447 42.6%
U.S. Decennial Census[13]
2013 Estimate[3]

The median house/condo value in 2005 was estimated to be $242,400 (67% increase from 2000).[7]

2010 census[]

As of the census[2] of 2010, there were 22,974 people, 8,080 households, and 6,050 families residing in the city. The population density was 543.2 inhabitants per square mile (209.7 /km2). There were 8,542 housing units at an average density of 202.0 per square mile (78.0 /km2). The racial makeup of the city was 93.4% White, 1.9% African American, 0.4% Native American, 1.7% Asian, 0.7% from other races, and 1.9% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.1% of the population.

There were 8,080 households of which 42.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 61.1% were married couples living together, 9.5% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.3% had a male householder with no wife present, and 25.1% were non-families. 19.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.76 and the average family size was 3.18.

The median age in the city was 34.9 years. 28.5% of residents were under the age of 18; 7.7% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 29.5% were from 25 to 44; 24.9% were from 45 to 64; and 9.3% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 50.2% male and 49.8% female.

2000 census[]

As of the census[4] of 2000, there were 16,447 people, 5,664 households, and 4,400 families residing in the city. Recent estimates show the population at 21,329 as of 2005.[7] The population density was 385.5 people per square mile (148.9/km²). There were 5,782 housing units at an average density of 135.5 per square mile (52.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 97.18% White, 0.43% African American, 0.37% Native American, 0.49% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.48% from other races, and 1.02% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.33% of the population. 39.0% were of German, 14.7% Norwegian, 7.7% Swedish and 6.8% Irish ancestry according to Census 2000.

There were 5,664 households out of which 45.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 64.7% were married couples living together, 9.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 22.3% were non-families. 17.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.85 and the average family size was 3.24.

In the city the population was spread out with 31.3% under the age of 18, 8.5% from 18 to 24, 33.9% from 25 to 44, 18.3% from 45 to 64, and 8.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females there were 100.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.8 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $58,114, and the median income for a family was $65,471. Males had a median income of $43,230 versus $30,023 for females. The per capita income for the city was $21,808. About 2.5% of families and 3.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 2.9% of those under age 18 and 4.6% of those age 65 or over.

Notable current and former residents[]

  • Dan Hinote – Former professional hockey player for the Colorado Avalanche, Modo Hockey Club (Swedish Elitserien), and St. Louis Blues
  • Paul Martin – Professional hockey player for the Pittsburgh Penguins (NHL)
  • Joel Otto – Former professional hockey player for the Calgary Flames and the Philadelphia Flyers (NHL)
  • Nate Prosser – Professional hockey player for the Minnesota Wild (NHL)
  • Dave Mordal – Contestant on the first and third seasons of Last Comic Standing and host of the Discovery Channel's Wreckreation Nation


  1. ^ a b "US Gazetteer files 2010". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2012-11-13. 
  2. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2012-11-13. 
  3. ^ a b "Population Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2014-11-02. 
  4. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  5. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  6. ^ "2010 Census Redistricting Data (Public Law 94-171) Summary File". American FactFinder. U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 Census. Retrieved April 23, 2011. 
  7. ^ a b c Elk River, Minnesota (MN) Detailed Profile – relocation, real estate, travel, jobs, hospitals, schools, crime, news, sex offenders
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Paul Levy, Northstar set to roll, but how far?, Star Tribune, December 11, 2007.
  12. ^ a b Elk River Area School District 728: Schools
  13. ^ United States Census Bureau. "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved November 2, 2014.

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